Does channel shift require cultural shift?

We’ve been writing about ‘channel shift’ in government for some time. The benefits of using new digital channels for citizen communications are clear – the Cabinet Office expects the UK government to realise savings of 1.2 billion pounds sterling by 2015 through its Government Digital Strategy.

gov bubble So, what’s holding us up?

It takes more than time and technology

It’s tempting to see the channel shift issue as an issue of technology and resources.  Hire a webmaster to build a better website.  Hire someone to post things on social media.  Send a few emails.  Watch the savings pile up and the citizens rejoice.

If only it were so simple.  To deliver a measurable return for agency investments, ‘channel shift’ strategies have to overcome several common obstacles in government organisations.

Decentralised, isolated efforts

For many agencies, the biggest cultural challenge is getting around isolated pockets of efforts and communications.  You might hire someone to do Twitter, for example, or maintain a Facebook page that operates on its own, without being part of an integrated strategy to improve service levels.

The result of this approach is isolated ‘silos’ of data that make it difficult to reengage citizens across your multiple channels.  This can actually increase your costs (through duplication of efforts) and limit the impact of your online strategies.

Shifting models of engagement with citizens

Government entities face an internet-adept generation of citizens that expects a certain level of real-time communications and interactive relationships with government.

In her paper “Digital Communications and Channel Shift in Government,” government communications analyst Liz Azyan discusses the challenges of adapting to these changing citizen expectations:

“Citizen engagement with the new socially informed generation also calls for two-way dialog.  Governments are shifting their view of citizens as consumers and allowing citizens to become contributors in the development of government. ”

Learn from the successes of others

How do you identify and address cultural obstacles?  Learning from others is one good way. This blog can be a resource for sharing successes in digital government organisations. And at GovDelivery, we sponsor research and ongoing analysis into what works and what doesn’t.

As part of those efforts, we’re making available a series of white papers by Liz Azyan, a blogger and analyst that specialises in government digital communications. The first of these papers addresses the cultural issues behind channel shift.  The paper includes examples of government agencies using digital strategies – including Twitter and Flickr photo sharing – for creative campaigns and citizen engagement. Look for inspiration and guidance – and then share your successes with us.